Aviation occurrence briefs

Cabin fire involving Airbus A320-232, abeam Cooma, NSW, on 18 February 2018

Status: Completed
Investigation completed


Occurrence Briefs are concise reports that detail the facts surrounding a transport safety occurrence, as received in the initial notification and any follow-up enquiries. They provide an opportunity to share safety messages in the absence of an investigation.

What happened

On 18 February 2018, an Airbus A320-232 departed Melbourne, Victoria (Vic.) on a scheduled passenger flight to Sydney, New South Wales (NSW). At about 0915 Eastern Daylight-saving Time (EDT), cabin crew were alerted to a fire in the cabin.

The cabin crew traced the source of the fire to three smartphone devices located in a passenger bag at row five. The crew subsequently discharged a fire extinguisher and followed the operator’s procedure for the management of a lithium battery fire. The fire was successfully extinguished and the devices isolated in a container until the end of the flight.

Safety message

Personal electronic devices (PEDs) such as smartphones contain lithium batteries, which are classed as dangerous goods. The incidence of passenger smartphones resulting in fire on board aircraft has increased. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has published advice on the ‘Least wanted dangerous goods’ carried by passengers. Lost or damaged smartphones were identified as the number one hazardous item on passenger aircraft in 2017. Previous Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigations AO-2016-051 and AO-2016-066 provide further examples of incidents of passenger smartphones causing in-flight fires and smoke events.

This incident highlights the need for passengers to become familiar with the hazards associated with the carriage of personal electronic devices, in particular, the potential for fire if a device is damaged or overheated.

Fire on board aircraft is potentially catastrophic if not managed quickly and appropriately. It is important for operators to ensure crew receive training and are periodically tested in the management of lithium battery fires on board aircraft.

About this report

Decisions regarding whether to conduct an investigation, and the scope of an investigation, are based on many factors, including the level of safety benefit likely to be obtained from an investigation. For this occurrence, no investigation has been conducted and the ATSB did not verify the accuracy of the information. A brief description has been written using information supplied in the notification and any follow-up information in order to produce a short summary report, and allow for greater industry awareness of potential safety issues and possible safety actions.

General details
Date: 18 February 2018   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0915 EDT    
Location   (show map): Abeam Cooma    
State: New South Wales    
Release Date: 28 March 2018   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Airbus  
Aircraft model A320-222  
Type of operation Air Transport High Capacity  
Sector Jet  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Last update 04 June 2018